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Apple 'prepping smaller iPad'

Jobs said 'no seven-inchers', but rumor mill says otherwise

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Apple may be prepping a smaller, lower-cost iPad, perhaps as both a defensive parry to Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire and a less-pricey offering to cost-conscious emerging markets.

Such are the conclusions to be drawn from a report on Tuesday that both Taiwan's AU Optronics and Korea's LG Display have provided Apple with 7.85-inch touchscreens for testing.

If your Chinese is better than ours, you can check out the original article in Taiwan's United Daily News. If not, you can get the gist of it in Google's translation attempt.

According to the report, the smaller iPad – the iPad mini? – will have the same 1024-by-768 resolution as the current iPad 2. However, since the display will be smaller, the pixel density would be higher than the exisiting 132 ppi, thus providing a crisper image.

The report also notes that the device is scheduled to ship in "明年上半年出" – that'd be in the first half of next year. If so, this rumor lines up nicely with the recent reports that Apple is currently cranking out a million iPad 3s this quarter alone in preparation for a February unveiling of the future flagship fondleslab.

The iPad 3 is widely expected to boost its resolution to 2048-by-1536 to bring it into "retina display" territory, so even if the rumored iPad mini has a crisper display than the iPad 2, the iPad 3's display will handily out-spec its little brother.

There is, of course, one wrinkle in this 7.85-inch iPad rumor: Steve Jobs – who would of course have been involved in any decision to go forward on such a device – mercilessly savaged 7-inch tablets during a quarterly financial report conference call that was held a year ago tomorrow.

A smaller display, Jobs said, "isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps."

You could increase the resolution – as does the recently announced 1280-by-800, 7.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab – but to do so, Jobs said, would be "meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size."

However, taking Jobs' objections to heart would be an error. Any disparaging statement made by a corporate honcho about a market niche in which he or she does not have a product is not to be believed. When that honcho's company introduces a product in that niche, all past statements become moot.

Which could be what's about to happen in Apple's iPad line. After all, much of Apple's growth in recent quarters has come from emerging markets, and a smaller, cheaper iPad could become mighty popular among more price-sensitive shoppers.

And then there's the history of the iPod: introduce the big guy first, wait a while, then introduce the li'l guy and watch sales skyrocket. ®

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